Meal planning will save you from this:

It’s 5PM. I’m hungry. I don’t know what I want to eat so I go to the store. Or worse yet, I get “a little” takeout that turns into everyone piling on something until the bill comes to $50. Not that there’s anything wrong with eating out, mind you, but on those days you didn’t even enjoy it…

I need to have a plan. The average American spends more than $2600 a year on eating out. I’m not saying not to eat out, I’m saying never to eat out because you didn’t plan. That’s money you’re burning with no real added value.

“I don’t know how to meal plan.” Someone asked for help in a group I belong to. I cannot imagine not knowing how to meal plan, freezer cook, once-a-month stock, bulk cook and all the things I do well to eat well. Let’s fix that!

How to meal plan like a pro:

Let’s keep this simple–no need to scroll and read a ton.

  1. Look at the sale fliers or go down to your cabinets and freezer.
  2. Decide what you’re getting or what you have on hand.
  3. Pick 5-14 main things you will use for your main meal element and imagine a dish you want to eat with that ingredient. Write or type on a calendar grid (you can plan for a work week, a full week, two weeks, or even a month!)
  4. Bonus points: Actually prepping for or cooking meals and storing them.  If you do this, still plan out your meals on the grid, but note “Prepped in fridge” or “packed in freezer” so you’ll remember.

Variations on meal planning

Basic level: planning only:Plan your meals ahead of time. Make sure you’ve got the stuff. Cook them on the night you said you would. DON’T stop at the store for that whole planning period because you–planned.

Intermediate level: When you shop, you prep your food. Chop all the onions, veggies, and things you need instead of popping them into the back of the fridge. Toss your meats into their dry rubs or marinades… do what you can, quickly, to get those ingredients ready for the week.

Advanced level: Cook the food. Look at that grid. Make and store your casseroles, parms, pancakes, and other foods for the week. Then, they’re ready for you.

Super-advanced bonus level: Instead of doing the advanced-level one-time cooking, cook from time to time but triple or quadruple all recipes then store them on that night. This is the fastest way to bulk cook. You’re already cooking, but no one wants to eat eggplant parm for two weeks, so you rotate it through your meal plan. If you do this, it helps to keep an inventory sheet so you don’t bury your meals and forget what you have.

So, today, I’m kicking off a meal planathon. Since I plan anyway, I’ll link it here, building over time.

I hope it’ll help inspire you to plan on your own–or just take my plans.

Here’s the link to the Menu Planning page. You can also find it in the menu bar above.

Photo credit: Freshh Connection on Unsplash